Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU) has called on Government to consider cloud seeding in the wake of the unreliable rainfall patterns characterising 2018 /19 agricultural season. Some parts of the country have experienced prolonged dry spells of close to three weeks, a situation that has affected germination of crops and pastures for those in livestock business. Cloud seeding is the process of spreading either dry ice, or more commonly, silver iodide aerosols, into the upper part of clouds to try to stimulate the precipitation process and form rain.
As early as August, a normal to below normal rain season was forecast for Southern Africa due to the El Nino weather pattern, which according to meteorologists has a 62 percent chance of a drought.
In January this year, the Meteorological Services Department embarked on cloud seeding to mitigate below-normal rainfall during early summer cropping, with Treasury channelling $400 000 towards the exercise.
Two new aircraft were used in the countrywide programme covering Mashonaland, Manicaland and parts of Midlands, Matabeleland and Masvingo. However, no budget has been announced for cloud seeding this season.
In an interview with The Herald Business yesterday, ZCFU president Mr Wonder Chabikwa, said most parts of the country have endured a three weeks dry spell that has since seen most crops suffering from moisture stress, while pastures are failing.
“We can’t say the current dry spell has been a major surprise to farmers because we were warned that it is going to be a season of normal to below normal rainfall,” said Mr Chabikwa.
“But we thought it would not be this bad at the beginning because as it is most parts of the country have now gone for three weeks without rains and crops are beginning to give in.
“I think Government should quickly step in and where there are pregnant clouds, they must really start cloud seeding so that we save the situation,” he said.
The southern parts of the country have been the worst affected ones with livestock continuing getting wasted due to unavailability of pastures.
Mr Chabikwa urged farmers to consider offloading older animals to finance supplementary feeding for the core herd to avoid severe losses.
“The challenge we have is we don’t have many farmers that are overstocked whom we can say please de-stock to save the situation. So in that regard I think the advice will be to say let us sell the older animals we have and supplement the remaining herd than to lose everything,” said Mr Chabikwa.
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrence Shiri, has previously said Government had set measures to make sure that the country continues to produce enough grain to feed the populace.
The plan, Minister Shiri said, will see more land being put under irrigated crop as well as up scaling the farming of small grains that are more drought tolerant.
“While Government is noticing some improvement in the continued national food security status since the adoption of Command Agriculture strategy, we need, however, to keep our eyes firmly glued to the dashboard so that the food security vehicle does not veer off the road,” Minister Shiri told The Herald in September.
“Unfortunately our meteorological sensors are giving a warning to indicate the possibility of an El Nino, which suggests that the nation may not be able to produce adequate grain in the 2018-19 summer season. Therefore, we need to take pre-emptive action going forward to avert the negative effects of this potential disaster,” he said.–Herald/.co.zw